New Zealand floods: three dead and one missing after record rains in Auckland
Authorities said on Saturday three people had died and at least one was missing after record rainfall hit New Zealand’s largest city, causing widespread disruption.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins traveled to Auckland on a military plane after a state of emergency was declared in the region.
“Our priority is to ensure that the people of Auckland are safe, housed and have access to the essential services they need,” Hipkins said.
He said the city was going to do a big clean-up and people should stay indoors if possible. He said a break in the weather could prove temporary, with more rain forecast.
“This is an unprecedented event in recent memory,” Hipkins said.
Friday was the wettest day on record in Auckland, according to weather agencies, as the amount of rain that would typically fall throughout the summer hit in a single day. On Friday evening, more than 15 centimeters of rain fell in just three hours in some places.
The rain closed highways and poured into homes. Hundreds of people were stranded at Auckland Airport overnight after all flights were halted and parts of the terminal flooded.
Police said they found the body of a man in a flooded culvert and another in a flooded parking lot. They said firefighters and emergency crews found a third body after a landslide collapsed a house in the suburb of Remuera. One person remains missing after being swept away by floodwaters, police said.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand said crews responded to more than 700 incidents in the area and staff took more than 2,000 emergency calls.
Air New Zealand said it resumed domestic flights to and from Auckland on Saturday afternoon, but was unsure when international flights would resume.
“The floods had a huge impact on our operations in Auckland,” said David Morgan, the airline’s operational integrity and safety manager. “We are working to get customers to their final destinations and to get our crew and planes back to the right place. It might take a few days to get everything back on track.
In a series of Twitter updates, Auckland Airport said people could leave the airport early on Saturday for their homes or lodgings after hundreds spent the night in the terminal.
“It was a long and trying night at Auckland Airport. We thank everyone for their continued patience,” the airport wrote.
“Unfortunately, due to previous flooding in the baggage hall, we are currently unable to return checked baggage to you,” the airport wrote. “Your airline will make arrangements for his return later.”